A review OF projects & SERVICES


All students of Allied Health and Nursing Programs along with those taking biology courses, provide online feedback evaluating their learning experience at the end of each course and at the end of their programs prior to graduation. Designed by the Institute, accrediting bodies and faculty have found these robust and informative surveys extremely helpful in identifying opportunities for change. Over 100 surveys are generated each year and the Institute reviews all surveys - including open ended comments as a means to ensure continuous quality improvement. These "Highlight Reports" are an integral component towards achieving excellence in teaching and practice. Students who attend all "Health Career Explorer" summer camps also take evaluative surveys to help camp administrators enhance the week-long camps from the perspective of youth.

NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS also solicit the design and analysis of e-surveys from the Hirtzel Institute on topics that range from understanding the needs of employees to gaining insights from members of statewide associations on timely issues. Survey topics have included identifying long term care issues in Pennsylvania, identifying the needs of grandparents raising grandchildren in Louisiana and determining consumer information needs on insurance among women facing breast cancer.


GERIATRIC MANDATE REPORT. The first order of business for the Hirtzel Institute on Health Education and Aging was to  conduct a comprehensive strategic study to serve as a planning blueprint for university administrators and faculty titled, “Mercyhurst’s Mandate in Geriatric Nursing Education.”  The study offered an analysis of the eight-county workforce region citing, labor demographics, projections of population demand along with healthcare and workforce trends. An extensive electronic survey was conducted of 70 employers in the region – one of the first of its kind from an academic institution. The Institute facilitated focus groups with nurses of major medical centers and convened a Leadership Roundtable of healthcare employers, nursing faculty and agencies working with the elderly.  The study identified 25 strategic action steps for Mercyhurst to advance the instruction and quality of the nursing and allied health programs. 

NORTHSTAR.  A non-profit association of long-term care providers and one of the largest such state associations in the nation (LEADINGAGE/PA), commissioned the Hirtzel Institute on Health Education and Aging to facilitate a comprehensive strategic visioning process that analyzed the driving forces and trends in long term care that would affect its member's organizations during the next decade.   The year-long process, known as the NORTHSTAR, involved: an e-survey of its 1,000 members and another 200 policy, healthcare, legislative and civic leaders, focus groups, Thought Leader Retreats, and local Board of Director workshops. The process culminated in a strategic planning tool for its members and a magazine-like report, “The NORTHSTAR: PANPHA's Envisioned Future of Senior Services for Pennsylvania." The organization has recently released NORTHSTAR 2.0 -- an updated process and report on their vision for long term care and senior services.

GRANDPARENTS RAISING GRANDCHILDREN. The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Information Center of Louisiana asked the Hirtzel Institute's Director, Dr. Linda Rhodes, to research and tell the story of the 67,500-plus grandparents raising grandchildren throughout the state of Louisiana. The Hirtzel Institute received funding from the Louisiana Children's Trust Fund to conduct this comprehensive analysis of government and public services and a needs analysis of grand-families in the state. The report was distributed to policymakers and legislators to better inform them on the issues facing grandparents and provide them with strategic programs and initiatives to address these needs. Rhodes also enlisted students in the Masters in Public Health program at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University to come to Louisiana during spring break at their own expense to interview 200 grandparents raising grandchildren.

GRANTS.  The Institute actively works with the University's Development Office to identify and submit proposals in the fields of aging, health education and health professions. Nearly $2 million have been secured through these efforts from government, non-profit and private sector entities. Grants awarded have funded clinical laboratories, human patient simulators, Health Career Explorer Summer Camps, clinical faculty positions, minority youth initiatives, and the "Wear a Scrub ... Get a Career" program among others.

FEASIBILITY STUDIES. The Hirtzel Institute routinely conducts feasibility and marketing studies to determine the need for new programs in nursing and allied health at the University. Surveys of prospective students, focus groups, key informant interviews, competitor analysis, labor data and consumer demand inform these studies. As a result, nursing bridge programs and associate degrees in Occupational Therapy, Respiratory Therapy, Medical Lab Technology and Physical Therapy are offered. The most recently-approved education program researched by the Institute - a Health Care Science Bachelor's Degree - is a completion program for those with allied health associate degrees.


As Director of the Hirtzel Institute, Dr. Linda Rhodes is also responsible for providing in-service presentations when requested and conducting research for faculty on best education practices and other topics requested by the leadership. For example, the Institute recently assembled a study of best practices among nursing schools with high NCLEX pass rates. The Director also facilitates workshops among faculty and departments to address retention challenges and opportunities and results from student evaluation surveys.

Dr. Rhodes is a Certified Associate of Emergenetics International and has offered intensive two-day sessions with the allied health and nursing faculty at the university. Emergenetics is rooted in the concept that who you are today is the emergence of your behavior, genetic makeup and life experiences. Based on a 30-year history of evidence-based psychometrics and over 100,000 profiles used by major Fortune 500 companies throughout the world, the tools and workshops designed to apply them have received solid testimonials and results. Emergenetics provides a clear way to understand the intersection of nature and nurture through the Emergenetics Profile, built on four Thinking Attributes and three Behavioral Attributes that every person exhibits. Patterns of thinking and behaving that emerge from one's genetic blueprint and life experiences make up the profile. Recently, the entire ASN faculty spent two-days using their profiles to better understand how to design student-centered learning and create a collaborative culture of learning. They also created a word cloud on values and outcome measures to operationalize the values they espouse.


SHAPE UP YOUR COLON.  This innovative and dynamic project enlisted barbers -- a powerful and underused resource in the African-American community -- to advise their clients 50 and older as to the symptoms of colorectal cancer, the unique risks to their race and the need to see their primary care physician for screening. Barbers have a unique opportunity to act as lay health educators due to the high degree of networking and socializing that takes place in their shops and the role they play in many African-American communities as a trusted confidante and source of information. The project was funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and funded the Hirtzel Institute to develop and provide training to the barbers, conduct outreach, create consumer-friendly informational materials and create a referral system for clients who indicated an interest in screening within the UPMC-Hamot healthcare system. The twelve Erie barbers who participated in the project were very active in its development and chose its engaging title.

HEALTH CAREER EXPLORER SUMMER CAMPS. For over six years, Mercyhurst University has offered one-week immersion camps to culturally diverse youth to explore six different careers in allied health and nursing touching the lives of over 500 middle school and high school youth. Kids work with human patient simulators, conduct social histories with residents of a retirement home, make field visits to a major hospital and rehab center, observe an operation, and receive hands-on practice in nursing, occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, medical lab technology, and physical therapy. You can learn more about the summer camp by watching our video on the Home Page. At graduation from the camp, every student presents a Public Health Newscast video that they worked on during the week and receives a $2,000 scholarship towards any program at the University once they graduate from high school. Each camper receives a motivational mock magazine cover featured in his or her scrubs in a medical setting -- a huge hit among campers and their families.

SPECIAL PROJECT | Post-Katrina New Orleans

Following Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Rhodes volunteered to work with civic leaders and Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge to explore the possibility of creating a senior village for elderly evacuees of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Once FEMA funded the construction of a senior living community in New Orleans East under the auspices of the Louisiana Housing Finance Administration, Dr. Rhodes through the Hirtzel Institute was asked to join LHFA and the architects as a consultant to develop Village de Jardin – a twelve-acre independent senior campus providing congregate, apartment and single family homes for 240 older people.  In the photo collage below, Dr. Rhodes is pictured with the Deputy of the LHFA and Project Director, Roger Tijerino, AIA, Ph.D. and Jeffrey Smith, AIA, principal architect of the project of Holly and Smith Architects at the Grand Announcement held on the site. Dr. Rhodes also conducted focus groups with civic leaders and potential residents in New Orleans to gain insights as to their expectations for a new senior living community.

Today Village DeJardin is a thriving "55 & Older Independent Living Community," with an onsite clinic for residents offered by the Louisiana State University Health New Orleans School of Nursing.